We have at all times dreamed of taking a barge via the canals of the South of France. I keep in mind studying a journey e-book once I was younger a few couple who barged their manner via Europe and I’ve had that on my bucket listing ever since. When we had the alternative to drive our personal houseboat on the Rideau Canal final summer time in Canada, we made a degree to put Europe on our journey itinerary subsequent. So when Le Boat requested if we wished to self-drive a ship and cruise the Canal du Midi this summer time, our reply was a convincing, sure!
Cruise the Canal du Midi Tips and Advice
Since we had already taken two Le Boat cruises in Canada, we felt like seasoned consultants upon arrival at the Le Boat headquarters in Homps situated 90 minutes south of Toulouse. We whizzed via our 40-minute boat introduction and set off for our 6-day cruise down the well-known canal.
You don’t want any boating expertise to drive a Le Boat houseboat. When you arrive at the marina, a consultant will stroll you thru the boat’s controls and present you the way to drive it. There are limiters on the velocity so you’ll be able to solely cruise at a most of 10km per hour and there are a lot of bumpers on the boat to maintain you from crashing into the canal partitions.
Transfer from Toulouse to Homps
Le Boat’s Canal du Midi headquarters are situated in Homps which is a 90-minute drive from the airport. Le Boat arranges transfers and airport decide-ups to take you from Toulouse to Homps, and so they achieve this in type.
My brother and sister-in-legislation met us for this journey, so after spending 2 days in Toulouse, we went again to the airport to meet them and our drive to take the switch to our embarkation level.
Homps is the leaping-off level for Le Boat Vacations alongside the canal and it’s right here that we advocate spending at the very least a day to get every part to ensure that your cruise. There are a lot of eating places alongside the canal and there are a number of inns and condominium leases. Homps has been catering to Canal du Midi barges for years and is the excellent place for eating, purchasing for provides and stress-free.
Taking our non-public switch from the Toulouse airport, we arrived at the stunning Jardin d’Homps BnB in the village only a quick stroll from the Canal du Midi. This beautiful property is ready in a quiet tree-lined courtyard with a swimming pool, terrace, and scrumptious breakfast.
It was then off to our first night time of eating on this historic waterway at En Bonne Compagnie. This beautiful tavern had a incredible ambiance with wonderful service and meals. What a manner to kick off our journey. We might have spent greater than a day right here stress-free on this quiet city, As one resident from England who bought property right here stated, “It’s like Tuscany without the crowds.” They got here on a canal tour years earlier and cherished it a lot, that they moved right here! But alas, we solely had in the future earlier than our boat journey started.
Preparing for a Canal du Midi Cruise
There is a grocery retailer on the town the place you’ll be able to refill on meals and drinks. Our guesthouse proprietor warned us that there weren’t rather a lot of choices for meals in the coming days, so we should always get every part we’d like now.
The BnB proprietor was type sufficient to take our baggage and provides to the Le Boat test-in workplace, so we discovered a pleasant place in the shade to wait to be checked in and eventually get on our manner.
One of the most necessary items of recommendation I can provide you for buying is to buy a lot of water. The south of France can see insufferable warmth in the summer time, and through our journey, the temperatures rose to 42 levels Celcius. (107 F). We couldn’t drink sufficient water to keep hydrated. Luckily, our Vision 3 boat had a full-dimension fridge, so we had a lot of room to maintain issues cool.
We ordered a picnic bundle which gave us just a few necessities to start our journey. This helps with important objects like espresso, milk, sugar, butter, bread, salt & pepper, olive oil, just a few bottles of water, juice, coke, and a few native wine and beer. It additionally contains snacks like chips, peanuts, biscuits, and croissants. I like to recommend ordering this as it’ll get you thru a day or two in case you forgot something.
Below we’ve got supplied some packing important suggestions for cruising the Canal du Midi.
Our Route on the Canal du Midi
Our route alongside the Canal du Midi took us from Homps to Castlenaudry.
Day one was a brief day of cruising. After checking in, unpacking, and going via our boat stroll-via and lesson, we cruised for only a couple of hours to attain Puicheric.
When we docked, we had been grateful for having shopped in Homps as the city was a bit of a hike. We had two bikes, however there have been 4 of us, and since we simply bought on the boat, we determined to calm down and make dinner on the deck. Using the barbecue we made dinner and sipped wine from the South of France as we watched the solar go down.
We had a six-day itinerary to get from Homps to Castlenaudry and that was greater than sufficient. Our stops included
We recommend spending two nights in Carcassone as that is the largest metropolis with the most sights. Castlenaudrey has rather a lot of facilities as properly and you’ll catch the practice again to Toulouse from right here after Le Boat for those who don’t need to spend cash on the switch.
Activities on the Canal du Midi
We had visions of stopping at vineyards and olive groves throughout our time on the Canal however sadly that didn’t occur. We thought we’d be going sightseeing and exploring rather a lot, however we quickly realized that the smaller villages alongside the canal, actually don’t have rather a lot of sightseeing or issues to do. When planning your journey, take the stops into consideration.
Besides the cities of Carcassonne and Castlenaudrey, there wasn’t rather a lot to do. If you need to see sights and have excursions, this isn’t the journey for you. The attraction is being on the boat.
For our route, if you’d like excursions, we advise spending two days in Carcassonne and planning from there. We couldn’t e-book wine excursions, sightseeing, and even taxis from our boat and wished that we spent two nights in Homps and two nights in Carcassonne.
About the Locks and the Canal du Midi
If you learn our Le Boat expertise on the Rideau Canal in Canada, you will note that cruising the canals in Canada it is vitally stress-free as Parks Canada works the locks. Cruising the Canal du Midi takes much more work. The Rideau Canal is far more environment friendly with strains inside the locks that transfer up and down with the water so you’ll be able to merely loop your ropes round them from the boat.
The distinction is when cruising the Canal du Midi locks, one particular person should get off the boat at every lock to be there to take the ropes and loop them round the cleats at the high of the lock. This means you have to tie up above the lock and let that particular person off earlier than you’ll be able to undergo. This makes it much more time-consuming in contrast to the Rideau Canal.
Do You Open and Close the Locks on the Canal du Midi?
Before occurring the Canal du Midi, we had heard that we would wish to hand crank the locks ourselves. This was not the case on our route between Homps and Castlenaudry. For most of the locks, a lockkeeper is there to function the controls for you. The solely factor you want to do is catch the ropes at the high whereas the captain drives in. And then one particular person should be at the entrance and the again of the boat to maintain it regular with the ropes.
However, there was one portion of the canal on the manner into Castlenaudry, the place the passenger had to function the opening and shutting of the locks. The locks are automated, so all you’ve gotten to do is press the button and comply with the directions.
An necessary factor to word is that on this stretch, the locks are about 1km aside, so it’s a enormous day of going via locks. We discovered that, as an alternative of having the captain cease every time to drop one of us off earlier than every lock, the particular person conrtolling the locks as an alternative cycled forward to be ready for the boat to enter.
When I noticed the boat approaching, I pushed the inexperienced button to open the doorways. This made the complete expertise very environment friendly.
When the doorways opened, Dave drove the boat in after which Jim and Janice tossed me their ropes so I might loop them round the cleats. I then pushed the button to shut the doorways and fill the locks. They held onto the ropes to maintain the boat regular, and as soon as the lock was crammed, the doorways opened mechanically. I then rode forward to open the subsequent lock.
So our greatest tip for this portion of the journey is to have a bicycle on board.
If you didn’t lease a bicycle from Le Boat, you’ll both want to stroll forward throughout that portion or have the captain drop you on and off earlier than every lock. We extremely beneficial renting at the very least one bike. Besides, a number of of the mooring areas are situated out of city or the grocery shops are far out of your boat, so having a motorbike was an enormous bonus.
At instances, you’ll desire a bicycle to purchase some extra meals as shops had been a bit of a hike from the boat. While eating places and bars are situated immediately or inside strolling distance of the docks when in Homps, Trebs, Carcasonne, and Castlenaudry, there are occasions once you’ll be just a few km from the city. Plus, there are biking paths all alongside the Canal du Midi, so for those who get into your dock early, it’s your decision to get on the bikes to take a look round.
On Board Grocery Pack
As we talked about above, we extremely advocate ordering the grocery bundle to get you began on the boat. You will certainly want to do buying, however this permits you for some extras resembling espresso, milk, butter, jam, olive oil, sugar, and salt and pepper.
It additionally contains native wine, beer, lemonade, coke, water, and snacks resembling croissants, bread, biscuits, and chips. We discovered that we ended up utilizing every part together with the aluminum foil which is nice for cooking on the barbecue. Make positive to order your grocery pack 7 days upfront to have it on board once you arrive.
It is up to you the way a lot you need to buy. There are a lot of locations the place you’ll give you the option to dine out however at the very least for the first night time, you want your personal meals on board. And we extremely advocate having breakfast, snacks, lunches, and sufficient meals for a pair of dinners on board.
We purchased meals for all of our breakfasts, lunch, and for 2 dinners. The greatest recommendation we can provide is to plan your meals forward of time and resolve how typically you need to eat on the boat. You can’t take the meals with you, so if in case you have a transparent thought for every meal, you should purchase meats and cheeses, pastries and dinners for the length of your journey.
Packing Essentials for Le Boat on the Canal du Midi
Cruising the Canal du Midi happens in the summer time months in Southern France, so count on scorching climate. Pack the normal summer time-particular clothes like shorts and T-shirts, however one Le Boat-specific merchandise we can’t stress sufficient is to pack work gloves to man the locks. The ropes can actually tear up your arms, plus, they’re typically slimy. We used these gloves however I feel waterproof work gloves could be higher. See these on Amazon.
The Canal du Midi will not be clear, boats are allowed (really inspired) to dump their bathrooms immediately into the canal whereas driving. We can attest that many individuals even dumped their black water whereas docked as the scent wafted into our cabins. Since you’re dealing with ropes which are repeatedly falling into the water, put on gloves when tieing up and doing the strains. And wash your arms typically.
Another merchandise we want we had was a solar umbrella. We couldn’t put our boat cover up as a result of each few hundred meters we had to go underneath low bridges. Sun hats are a should. Bathing fits should not wanted as you can’t swim in the Canal du Midi. This umbrella seems like it will have been excellent to have at the captain’s chair.
Sunglasses and binoculars are a good suggestion as properly. Le Boat in each Ireland and Canada equipped binoculars however these waterways are on rivers with open lakes and also you want to discover buoys and markers. Binoculars should not wanted on the Canal du Midi since it’s only a straight slim canal so that you don’t want them to navigate, however it’s good to give you the option to take a more in-depth take a look at the passing surroundings.
Also, I extremely advocate bringing a pair of board video games or playing cards for evenings and it’s a good suggestion to pack transportable audio system on your music.
Portable fan – I’ve a USB-operated fan that’s handheld and that helped me rather a lot once I was overheating. I’ve at all times suffered from a Thyroid dysfunction and Graves illness, so my thermostat has by no means been nice. With the nonetheless scorching air on the Canal du Midi, I used to be struggling. My transportable handheld fan helped me rather a lot when the warmth was too intense.
Choose Your Boat Wisely
Le Boat has a number of completely different types of boats. If your finances permits, we advise reserving the Horizon Lines or Premier boats. They are the latest and run the greatest. We have pushed the Horizon fleet in Canada and Ireland and so they actually are the high of the line.
On the Canal du Midi, we had a consolation boat Vision 3. It didn’t deal with fairly in addition to the Horizon and you’ll count on just a few issues to go improper on the older boats. For instance, our air-con stopped working so they’d to give us a transportable unit to use. And our battery died, so we had to change out boats half manner via our journey.
Le Boat has emergency numbers and sends out technicians rapidly, so when one thing does occur they’re on it quick so that you don’t want to fear about being stranded. They will at all times be there to assist.
For inexperienced boaters, The Horizon Line is wonderful and these are the boats we advocate in case your finances permits. Our Horizons 3 and 4 boats turned on a dime and the thrusters had been so highly effective you’ll be able to cease rapidly to keep away from any collisions.
Our Vision 3 boat in France took a whole boat size to cease and the thrusters weren’t as highly effective. This boat took extra ability to maneuver.
This is very true with the winds on the Canal du Midi. We had fairly a bit of expertise by this time, however we noticed individuals going into locks sideways, hitting different boats, and being blown away whereas docking. With the newer fashions, that is much less seemingly. So, for those who don’t have rather a lot of boating expertise, we advise sticking with the new and better-finish fashions.
Extremely Low Bridges on the Canal
Also beware, that there are rather a lot of low and slim bridges all alongside the Canal du Midi. We booked a big three-bed room boat and it felt virtually too huge. If you aren’t snug driving via slim passages, we advise renting a smaller boat. Le Boat has boat sizes that match any consolation stage and so they can go as small as simply having two passengers.
Going via the low bridges could be a thrill, nevertheless it additionally turned tiresome. We might by no means put our cover up to get aid from the scorching solar, we had to duck every time we went underneath a bridge in order not to hit our heads. (this may be actually severe, so we had been repeatedly reminded one another to duck when approaching), and it was at all times a bit anxious that we’d hit the sides.
About Barging the Canal du Midi
Cruising the Canal du Midi is on many individuals’s bucket lists. We loved it however felt that Canada’s Rideau Canal was extra our velocity. In Canada (and Ireland – extra on that cruise coming quickly) we loved the extensive open waters and fewer locks in contrast to the fixed slim channels and abundance of locks on the Canal du Midi.
That stated, my sister-in-legislation cherished going via the locks and stated that her favourite half was having the expertise of going via the locks.
As the captain, Dave discovered that having to pull over repeatedly to let individuals was a bit anxious and I discovered that having to get off the boat a number of instances a day was a bit of a chore. I might have most well-liked to keep on the boat to calm down and revel in the surroundings. But, for those who love to work and have a job throughout your travels, you’ll love the Canal du Midi.
Going on the Canal du Midi is a good way to discover the extra off-the-overwhelmed-path locations of France. It takes you again in time to journey at a slower tempo by yourself time. As one particular person stated to us “The Canal du Midi is the perfect place to think more and hurry less.” I like that.